Jessica Burgess is a much loved S&CBC member, who has kindly written us this blog about her shooting journey and her recent success with the British Shooting Talent Pathway.
Most people either have a face of shock, concern or intrigue when I say my passion is shooting. However, my recent success in working for entry onto the British Shooting Talent Pathway has left me nothing short of wanting to shout from the rooftops! Here is my story, my up’s and down’s and why you should also pursue your passion!
I was standing out in a snowy field at fourteen years old, helping load for my dad who had only recently got into game shooting. A few drives in, the host lent me a 20 bore to share the peg with my dad. I instantly fell in love. The kickback was a massive adrenaline rush and the excitement, variety and skill involved got me intrigued to rise to the challenge. It wasn’t much longer until I owned my very own Beretta Onyx 20 bore, regularly sharing pegs during the season and occasionally having a go at some clays at local grounds. I became known as that young girl who went on shoots, wasn’t shy of getting lead in the air, even if she wasn’t hitting anything! However, given this was very seasonal and I had long-standing commitments to music, I didn’t invest much time in the sport and stayed a part-time hobby.
It wasn’t until I went to sixth form at seventeen where I was fortunate enough to shoot every week for a couple of hours on some sporting traps and where my interest turned to clays rather than game. Sarah Daley used coach me, telling me “you know how to hit them, just hit them” and “ignore what I am saying to others, just do your own thing” – and it worked! I trained to compete at my first competition against other schools in the area. I started well coming joint first for ladies in my first competition, but had to do a shoot-off. On the stand that I’d hit every clay at earlier that day, I missed everything. I burst into tears. That was when I realised how much shooting really meant to me and I made a commitment to myself to start to train, both physically and mentally, to compete.
At University of Exeter, I joined the shooting club where we drove out to the countryside every week to have a go at sporting traps and compact. Although the arrangement was very casual, I was encouraged to go regularly and started shooting with my Beretta 686 Special 12 bore, I wouldn’t even consider going back to a 20 bore now! Before long I was encouraging ladies to join the club, supporting the team entries into university championships (where the club earnt its first medal, silver by the ladies team!) before becoming Ladies Captain during my last year. By the time I left, over 50% of club membership was female and more and more were getting involved. It just comes to show how much the uptake changed!
I didn’t want working life to stop me shooting so started searching for a club to keep me going, where I came across the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club. The community of the club means that with any event, competition or trip to your local shoot you will always bump into a friendly face who encourages and supports your shooting, which is truly invaluable particularly when you are first starting out.
The club also runs regular shoots for all abilities and disciplines which is where I had the opportunity to try Olympic Skeet. Anita North, five-time British champion in Olympic Trap, ran a day back in June 2016 introducing fellow ‘bunners’ to the two Olympic disciplines, Trap and Skeet. Spending half a day on each, Olympic Skeet left me wanting more! I dug a little deeper, utilising the awesome network within the Chelsea Bun club, where I met Pip Watson who started regularly coming with me to Bisley and sharing her experiences and tips with Olympic Skeet. Becoming a regular face at the ground means I started to meet more instructors and enthusiasts so when I heard about the British Shooting Talent Identification Day, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. Every weekend I spent commuting out of London to nearby skeet ranges to squeeze in as much practice as I could, managing to get through over 150 cartridges some weekends!
When the day arrived, I was incredibly nervous, however these were calmed when I found 4 other ‘bunners’ who were trying both Olympic Skeet and Olympic Trap that day. I had a shaky start when the instructors recognised me and put me into the experienced skeet group, dropping my first three clays on the first stand due to a sudden adrenaline rush. However, by the end of the day, I felt I had done what I could in both performance and attitude to reflect my current experience (and lack of sleep!). The good news is that it paid off, I was offered a place on the British Shooting Talent Pathway and will now have even more support to keep working at Olympic Skeet.
My shooting journey has been a fantastic nine years but to think that I am now training for an Olympic-recognised discipline having only four months of experience, I never thought it would be possible. It comes to show how important it is to grow your confidence and to find the support to help you realise that with determination, resilience to British weather and a sheer stubbornness to not be squeezed out of a male-dominated sport, you can pursue your passion. With that, I owe my thanks to the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun club for making my dream a reality and would encourage you to get involved!
Victoria says: 'We're all so proud of Jess, she's an absolute superstar in the making and we've got high hopes for her! She has all the attributes of a World Class athlete, she's determined, she's focussed and has fun. We love that she's a part of the Club and hope this inspires many more ladies to get stuck in. Well done Jess, we're all so proud of you! x'